NEAR EAST REPORT AIPAC'S BIWEEKLY ON AMERICAN MIDDLE EAST POLICY

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AIPAC-trained students asked Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) to support Iran sanctions. Students across the country have lobbied their members of Congress.
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Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), the House Republican Whip, spoke with AIPAC-trained students who came to Capitol Hill to urge their representatives to support IRPSA.

AIPAC-Trained Students Lobby for Iran Sanctions

Since the school year began last fall, hundreds of AIPAC-trained student activists on dozens of campuses nationwide have lobbied their members of Congress to support Iran sanctions legislation. These students have positioned their campuses as assets to the pro-Israel movement in the United States.

New England Schools Mobilize

When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to the United Nations in New York last September, AIPAC-trained students in the Boston area chose not to focus their energy on street protests and other theatrical displays. Instead, they directed their efforts to the political arena, launching a campaign to get more members of Congress from Massachusetts and Rhode Island to cosponsor Iran sanctions legislation.

The students visited their representatives' district offices, delivering thank-you letters to the lawmakers who had cosponsored the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act (IRPSA) and urging those who had not yet signed on to do so.

Their efforts made a difference. Many members of Congress were impressed by the students' efforts to influence legislation. "I commend the students at Tufts University for getting involved in an issue as important as nuclear nonproliferation," said Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), whose district includes the Tufts campus. "I sincerely appreciate the students at Tufts for their interest in this critical issue." Markey was an IRPSA cosponsor who received hundreds of letters of appreciation for his support.

Some media outlets noticed the students' non-confrontational reaction to Ahmadinejad's visit to the United States. When asked by The Jerusalem Post why students chose not to stage a protest, Brown student and two-time AIPAC Advocate of the Year Harry Reis had a simple answer: "We want to tie our activities to a tangible outcome." BACK TO TOP

Minnesotans Build Relationships

A thousand miles away, at the University of Minnesota, AIPAC-trained campus activists Dan Garon and Zander Abrams have spent the 2009-2010 school year building relationships with the entire Minnesota congressional delegation.

Early in the fall semester, they visited the district offices of each House member from Minnesota. Soon they became familiar faces to every Minnesota member of Congress and their staff.

A few months later, when Garon and Abrams learned that the House was preparing to vote on IRPSA, they had no reason to panic. They diligently reached out to their contacts in each office and urged them to vote for the legislation. Their efforts paid off: The entire Minnesota delegation voted for the passage of IRPSA. BACK TO TOP

Students from Indiana and Florida Garner Support

At Indiana University, AIPAC-trained activists published a leadership statement, signed by more than 100 campus leaders, as a full page ad in their campus newspaper. Following its publication, the students sent copies of the ad to Indiana's two senators as well as every House member from the Hoosier State.

Meanwhile, students at Florida International University visited the district offices Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL), Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), asking them to support Iran sanctions legislation.

In addition, at the University of Florida (UF), the Student Government Association overwhelmingly passed a resolution stating that "the University of Florida Student Senate hereby exhorts the United States Congress to pass and adopt the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act (IRPSA)... to pressure the Iranian leadership, through peaceful means, to abandon its nuclear weapons program."

The full text of the resolution was then sent to every member of the Florida Congressional delegation. Shortly after, Reps. Cliff Sterns (R-FL) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) issued a statement congratulating the students at UF and urging their colleagues to also pass IRPSA.
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Lobbying in Washington

Some students are lucky enough to be able to lobby not only in their home districts, but also on Capitol Hill. Students at George Washington University (GW), for example, go to a school that is walking distance from Congress.

Last fall, AIPAC-trained activists at GW decided that they wanted to take advantage of their proximity to the Capitol and lobby every lawmaker who had not yet signed on as a cosponsor of IRPSA.

In advance of their trip, they wrote a statement expressing support for IRPSA and secured the signatures of the presidents of DC College Democrats, GW College Democrats, GW College Republicans and GW Student Association. Then the students printed personalized 11x17 copies of the statement for every member who had not yet signed on as an IRPSA cosponsor.

Twenty students spent the entire day walking the halls of House and Senate office buildings, hand delivering their statements. In most cases, without appointments, the activists were given face time by either the chief of staff or the foreign policy legislative aide.

Staffers were impressed with the students' passion. "It's amazing that when we're so polarized, you got the College Democrats and Republicans to agree on something," said Senator Dodd's chief of staff. "I'm inspired and warmed."

The foreign policy legislative aide in Sen. Max Baucus' (D-MT) office said that the senator would seriously consider sponsoring IRPSA after meeting with the students. "Montana's voters don't bring up these issues, so Iran sticks out, especially when so many top students are behind it," the aide said.

Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) was also enthusiastic about the students' efforts to support the Iran sanctions legislation, which she introduced early last year. "Thank you for getting co-sponsors for my own bill," Ros-Lehtinen said. "I can't believe it... I would be happy if my own daughter would be taking her time to lobby members of Congress on the Iran bill, but I would worry about her midterms!"

The students, who had been neglecting their midterm exams in order to implement this initiative, assured Ros-Lehtinen that, given the importance of this issue, they absolutely have their priorities straight. BACK TO TOP

Winter Visit to Capitol Hill

The GW students did not rest after their autumn lobbying. They joined students from Georgetown University, American University, Touro College, Queens College and Yeshiva University for a major lobbying day on December 2.

On that day, more than 250 students visited Capitol Hill to lobby for IRPSA. The students represented over 100 districts and took part in more than 50 lobbying appointments with members of both the House and Senate. Almost every student had been trained by AIPAC for the event, but the entire day was organized by the students, without outside help.

Within a week of their lobbying day—the largest by AIPAC-trained activists in recent memory—the students followed up on their appointments, making calls and writing letters to members of the House, all just days before the IRPSA vote. These students were not surprised to hear that the bill passed by a vote of 412-12. BACK TO TOP

Ivy League to Visit Nation's Capital

Later this month, AIPAC-trained students from all eight Ivy League campuses will come to Washington to lobby their members of Congress and thank them for supporting IRPSA. The delegations—from Brown, Cornell, Columbia, Dartmouth, Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton and Yale—will also urge the congressional leadership to reconcile the different House and Senate bills and send a final version to the president.

The Harvard delegation, comprised entirely of law students, will be meeting with the 10 senators and 27 House members who are Harvard alumni. The students will ask the lawmakers, who have strong relationships with Harvard faculty, to publicly support a campaign at Harvard to divest from companies doing business in Iran.

Assets to the Pro-Israel Movement in America

These students—from New England, Minnesota, Indiana, Florida, New York and Washington—are just a sample of what college students are doing nationwide not only on the Iran sanctions issue, but in all areas affecting the U.S.-Israel relationship. Thanks to these AIPAC-trained student activists, college campuses in all 50 states and the District of Columbia are assets to the pro-Israel movement in the United States.
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